This issue introduces Simon Williams, who was transformed into Wonder Man by Baron Zemo to infiltrate the Avengers and destroy them from within. Of course, he doesn’t succeed—neither Williams nor Zemo—and Simon goes on to become a long-standing member of the Avengers (and, in a very interesting recent turn, a declared pacifist).
Oh, and Cap? We see more of his bloodlust for Zemo as well as his suspicion of Wonder Man’s ruse (in one of Cap’s less gullible early moments).
Finally, we welcome Don Heck to pencils, visiting from Iron Man’s feature in Tales of Suspense (to which we’ll turn soon). Quite a change from Jack “The King” Kirby, of course, but Heck’s work is not without its charms; I came to appreciate him much more after reading his early Marvel work than I did seeing his 80s work on DC Comics titles such as Wonder Woman.
OUR FIRST COURSE… REVENGE!
In the opening splash page we see Cap hallucinating about Zemo…
…only to be roused by his fellow Avengers, leading to more of the rumination and “hunger for revenge” that we’ve seen in many of the earlier issues.
Fortunately, this vengeful impulse of Cap’s won’t last much longer—we’ll see why soon. But before that, we will see this uncharacteristically darker side of the Sentinel of Liberty came back later in the issue.
“PLEASE MAY I BE AN AVENGER?”
After the Avengers “find” Zemo, Enchantress, and the Executioner robbing a company’s payroll—as if that weren’t suspicious enough—a new hero comes to their aid and easily dispatches the three villains.
Get it… Wonder Man, from the Amazon jungles? Very good, Stan, very good.
Thor buys his act a little too easily…
…but Cap is more suspicious (and Hank apparently has no respect for the time of his colleagues).
Cap knows enough not to underestimate his foes—especially after Zemo hoodwinked him in the last issue. (Keep in mind, though, that Simon Williams is also an actor. An actor.)
Once Zemo realizes the jig is up, the Enchantress casts a spell on Cap—one that actually reveals the truth about Williams, that he’s dying from the treatment that transformed into Wonder Man and which Zemo retains his loyalty by keeping him alive. (Of course, she doesn’t reveal everything.)
Naturally, the Avengers being a team of swells, they all work to find a cure for Simon—even the Teen Brigade joins in the research. (Only Cap is missing—maybe he’s coordinating behind the scenes. He is leader now, remember.)
Later, after Wonder Man helps Zemo and the others defeat the Avengers, he has a change of heart and turns on the one man who can keep him alive.
But before we see the end of Simon’s story, let’s go…
BACK TO CAP’S BLOODLUST
Simon gives the Avengers enough time to recover, and as the villains flee, our heroes rush after them… but Cap has one condition:
Just in time, Hank pulls them back before getting caught in a massive explosion that Zemo set for them after he and the other villains disappeared. Hank also explains that they have the Wasp to thank, because she flew ahead and saw Zemo trigger the bomb. (Unfortunately, we don’t see Cap or the other boys apologize to Janet for underestimating her, as we’ve seen in recent issues.)
Cap is still upset that his quest for justice was thwarted once more…
…and it falls to the Wasp, yet again, to remember what’s important—namely, the fella lying over there. (Oh yeah, him. Hey, he’s not moving. Guys!)
SIMON, WE HARDLY KNEW YOU… BUT WE WILL SOON
Simon Williams shows himself to be the true hero of this issue (recalling the classic story “This Man, This Monster” from Fantastic Four #51, June 1966).
As much as the snarky bit of me would like to read Tony’s initial question as incredulous—“Why would you do that?”—we must remember that, for all of his pragmatism and love of expediency, Tony Stark is a hero who has time and again risked his own life to save others. (It’s just, you know, hard to remember sometimes!)
Cap’s closing comment brings the issue full circle by refocusing, even briefly, on Cap’s grief over his failure to save Bucky before sinking into the freezing water, and adds nicely to the poignant ending. (You don’t even miss the standard rallying cry Cap has delivered on the end of many of the previous issues.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #9, October 1964: Stan Lee (writer), Don Heck (pencils), Dick Ayers (inks), Stan Goldberg (colors), Art Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume One
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Avengers #8 (September 1964)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Tales of Suspense #58 (October 1964)
NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #10 (November 1964)
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